Ultimately, the process of choosing the right system integration company for your organization comes down to finding the right fit based on a number of factors including financial, cultural, knowledge and experience. Choose right and the benefits are obvious; however, the wrong choice can be detrimental to your organization in many ways. As author Benjamin Hoff aptly puts it, “You’d be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that things are as they are.” In this piece, we offer the Next Level Solutions Top 12 tips when selecting the right system integration organization for you.
- Due diligence, due diligence, due diligence. The due diligence process should be in-depth and comprehensive to make sure you get the clearest picture of what a company is all about, not just what they want you to know. Doing extensive homework ensures you are comparing apples to apples when it comes to making a final decision. Ask lots of questions including what projects a potential system integration company has undertaken and with what components (e.g. policy, billing, claims, data). In addition, dig deeper to understand what lines of business a company does and in what states. For example, doing a personal auto implementation in a specific state is significantly different then doing a commercial ISO or Worker’s compensation implementation.
- Don’t play the name game. Remember, selecting the right system integration company is about people, not the name on the front of the building or the URL on a website. Make sure you know the specific people that will be working on your project and get the agreement in writing. All too often, companies will communicate that they have available staff ready to start and will even throw out names. However, many times the “available staff” may suddenly be needed elsewhere, leaving you with staff straight out of bootcamp. Don’t fall for the bait and switch. The reputable companies will already have the “leadership” team ready for your project before they are selected.
- Deviations and their impact on your costs. Another important tip is to clearly understand any deviations from scope, schedule and financial impact. This is a big one that warrants additional explanation. Many system integrators lure carriers in knowing that the project will go over budget. They also know that they will already have gotten their money before the carrier realizes it. Avoid doing extensive research here at your own peril. This is where focusing on price only can be very dangerous. Get to the bottom of the estimated scope by making sure that SI-A is providing the same detail and scope that SI-B is.
- Location, location, location. Similar to real estate, location can make a big difference in system integration. Take a close look at using an on-shore vs. an off-shore model. Experience shows that, in an offshore model, although the resources come with a lower rate card, the staffed team is typically three to four times the size of an onshore model, which usually adds significantly to overhead, technical debt, and time from your onshore leads. Additionally, off-shore models are often wrought with inefficiencies and obstacles, such as time changes, communication, and cultural differences that are all difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. Lastly, for companies that have never participated or embraced an off-shore model, it’s a very difficult transition and your organization might not be well-equipped or have an appetite to embrace an off-shore implementation. Without the internal buy-in, the odds of a successful system integration are greatly diminished.
- Vendor management. Having someone that can hold the vendor accountable and making sure that the SI is building an architecturally sound platform is paramount to its success. Don’t be afraid to bring in a third party that has intimate knowledge of the vendor they are implementing to serve in an advisory or consultative role. Successful vendor management is a highly-skilled service but, absent having someone capable of doing so on staff, spending the money to contract with one will prevent you from being “penny-wise and pound foolish.”
- Don’t believe the self-service hype. Realistically, very few carriers become self-sufficient in the time frames initially proposed. On average, after a carrier resource completes Duck Creek Bootcamp, it takes approximately twelve (12) months of mentoring to become a senior level, self-guided developer (manuscript, author), or field engineer.
- Experience matters. Many SI’s will tell you they have experienced Duck Creek resources when, in fact, what they are doing is running net new resources through Duck Creek Boot Camp and telling you that they have Duck Creek Tech Experience. Ask for named resources and the ability to interview them. The examples below are roles for a typical SI. The years of experience should be Duck Creek only:
a. Architects – 8+ years
b. Tech Lead – 5+ years
c. Sr. Developers – 4+ years
d. Developers – 2+ years
e. Jr. Developers – 2+ years
f. QA Lead – 3+ years
g. Analyst – Boot Camp
h. QA Associate – Boot Camp
- Governance and oversight. Make sure that you start your project with the right governance model in place across the organization. There should be a healthy mix of oversight between executive sponsor, senior members of the SI, project management, Duck Creek, etc. This model will ensure that there is constant communication regarding scope, schedule and financial ramifications of your project and that everyone thoroughly understands the impact to scope change and there is a formal change control process in place. Optimally, you would set up an advisory board that includes members of Duck Creek Technologies’ senior leadership team. This can greatly enhance equal accountability by all parties.
- The right architecture from the start. Architecture mistakes in the beginning of a project will haunt you for the life of the application. Do your homework to discover what type of experience and expertise your SI has in the architecture of Duck Creek.
- The Duck Creek legacy is a legacy of success. Taking the time to fully understand the reputation of the Duck Creek application stack will provide insight into why Duck Creek is superior. Policy and billing are applications built from the ground up by Duck Creek resources. Claims is an integrated product originally built by Accenture and Data Insights is a purchased product from Yodil. Ensure that the skill sets of those resources align accordingly. When comparing apples to apples, Duck Creek isn’t just another ‘apple’ but THE APPLE that, when paired with the right SI, is ‘ripe’ for you.
- Remember references. All SIs will tell you how great they are but don’t take their word for it. Ask their customers. The SI will provide you with ones that they want you to talk to, but you would be wise to delve further and find out other clients that may not have been on the reference list. What they say (or don’t say) will be telling.
- You can’t afford not to do your homework. Remember, selecting the right SI is one of the most significant decisions you will make. Doing homework takes time but the consequences of not doing your homework could rob you of far more in the form of money, resources and reputation.
Selecting the right SI is a long, arduous and difficult process but, when done right, the SI will be more than another vendor – they will be a partner. In it for the long haul.
About the Authors:
Chris Sawyer is the President and CEO of Next Level Solutions and has more than 20 years of experience in the Property and Casualty Insurance industry.
Michael Smith is the Managing Partner of Next Level Solutions, and has nearly 15 years of experience with Duck Creek implementations and Insurance Technology Operations.